Sports

Tee Time 2018: A Golfer’s Guide to Northwest Montana

Surveying the golf landscape in the Flathead Valley and beyond

Notwithstanding the occasional April snowstorm, spring really is here and golf season is just around the corner for Northwest Montana and its bevy of popular, highly regarded courses. Local venues offer some of the most spectacular golf experiences in the country, with tracks laid out by renowned designers and framed by breathtaking scenery that caused Golf Digest to proclaim Northwest Montana one of the world’s top 50 golf course destinations.

There are a couple area courses – Polson Bay and Indian Springs – at least partially open as of the first week of April, and most of the rest should be in operation around the middle of the month. So grab those clubs out of the garage, clean off those spikes and get ready to hit the links at any of these local courses:

Buffalo Hill Golf Club

1176 N. Main St., Kalispell | 27 holes | (406) 756-4530 | www.golfbuffalohill.com

Buffalo Hill is Kalispell’s oldest golf course, but the old track has held up quite nicely in the 100 years since the first balls were struck in the hills just north of downtown. Formerly Kalispell Municipal Golf Course, Buffalo Hill took its current form in the late 1970s when the Championship 18 was unveiled to accompany the Cameron Nine. Buffalo Hill’s 27 holes are ideal for beginners and experienced golfers alike, and a large on-site driving range is perfect for tuning up that rusty swing. The course has introduced special afternoon rates for locals this season, offering a more than 20 percent discount on rounds booked between noon and 3 p.m., in addition to the already discounted twilight (3 p.m. and later) rates. Plus, Buffalo Hill has expanded its offerings for junior golfers, introducing the First Tee program for youngsters age 7 to 17.

Cabinet View Golf Club

458 Cabinet View Road, Libby | 18 holes | (406) 293-7332 | www.golflibby.com

The Cabinet Mountains provide a spectacular backdrop for this well-wooded course that winds through both water and wildlife, including elk, moose, turkeys, foxes and deer. Opened in 1955, recent years have seen the reconstruction of tee boxes and greens on the front nine and a new fleet of golf carts to wheel around the grounds. Cabinet View’s front nine and driving range will open on April 15, with the rest of the course soon to follow.

Eagle Bend Golf Club

279 Eagle Bend Drive, Bigfork | 27 holes | (406) 837-7310 | www.eaglebendgolfclub.com

Not many courses in Montana can match the views at Eagle Bend, which sits just north of Flathead Lake and just west of the Swan Range. The oft-honored Eagle Bend added nine holes (the aptly-named Bear 9) built by Jack Nicklaus’ design firm, Nicklaus Design, in 1995, and has previously been rated among the 50 best golf courses in the nation. The course is semi-private, with a full-service restaurant and practice facilities to rival any country club.

Glacier View Golf Course

640 Riverbend Drive, West Glacier | 18 holes | (406) 888-5471 | www.glacierviewgolf.com

Glacier View’s modest length and par 69 make it anything but a bomber’s paradise, with tricky greens and dense rough punishing the erratic swinger. But the true highlight of the course is its namesake, Glacier National Park, which provides jaw-dropping views in every direction. The course itself is just inside the park’s southern border and features one of the region’s more affordable rounds at just $32 for 18 holes. Opened in 1969, the course also has RV hookups for golfers who want to camp out for a weekend or more.

Indian Springs Ranch

77 Indian Springs Road, Eureka | 18 holes | (406) 889-5056 | www.indianspringsmontana.com

This fairly new links-style course opened in 2010 and sits just south of the Canadian border, but it’s well worth the trip, with fairways meandering through prairie grass and across gently rolling hills. This year, the fairways have been widened slightly but don’t let that fool you – tighter cuts around the course mean control is still the name of the game on this par 71. Discounts are available for Lincoln County residents, and the course hosts a number of unique events, starting with the new Golf and Guns tournament on April 21 that includes nine clay-shooting stations in addition to a round of golf.

Meadow Lake Golf Course

490 St. Andrews Drive, Columbia Falls | 18 holes | (406) 892-2111 | www.meadowlakegolf.com

Few public golf experiences can stack up to Meadow Lake, which earned a rare 4.5 star rating from Golf Digest and was called a “must play” course by Golf Magazine. The tree-lined championship course also includes an abundance of water hazards, and the incredible views from within the shadow of Glacier National Park make for an unforgettable round. When you’re not on the course, Meadow Lake offers a driving range, full-service pro shop and restaurant on site.

Northern Pines Golf Club

2 U.S. 93, Kalispell | 18 holes | (406) 751-1950 | www.northernpinesgolfclub.com

Northern Pines’ links-style layout was the brainchild of two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North and opened in 1996. Checking in at more than 7,000-yards from the tips, you’ll need some length at Northern Pines, and the distinctive front and back nines provide unique challenges. The Scottish-style first nine holes are mostly open, but the back nine brings trees, hills and a trip along the Stillwater River into play. Northern Pines was tabbed as Montana’s seventh-best course by Golf Digest in 2013 and was earlier named Golf Magazine’s third-best public course in the state.

Polson Bay Golf Course

111 Bayview Drive, Polson | 27 holes | (406) 883-8230 | www.polsonbaygolf.com

Built along the southern shore of Flathead Lake, Polson Bay’s 18-hole Championship Course offers near-continuous views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Opened in 1938, Polson Bay has robust men’s, women’s and junior programs, and in addition to the championship 18 the nine-hole Olde Course should open later this month. If you’re itching to play 18 this weekend check out Polson Bay’s Masters Fun Day, a two-person scramble that tees off Saturday, April 7 at 9 a.m.

Village Greens Golf Course

135 Palmer Drive, Kalispell | 18 holes | (406) 752-4666 | www.villagegreensmontana.com

Nestled within a residential neighborhood, Village Greens still provides a scenic look at the Flathead Valley’s big skies and mountain vistas. A par 70, this course is a great option for golfers of all skill levels, and its practice facility is one of the more popular ones around. Twilight rates are available for those looking for value, and kids age 7 to 15 play free on Sundays with an accompanying paid adult.

Whitefish Lake Golf Club

1200 U.S. 93, Whitefish | 36 holes | (406) 862-5960 | www.golfwhitefish.com

The largest golf venue in Northwest Montana, Whitefish Lake’s two 18-hole courses have each been consistently ranked among the state’s best, abutting Whitefish and Lost Coon lakes and taking advantage of the towering Big Mountain nearby. The longer north course checks in at par 72, while the par 71 south course features numerous water hazards in addition to the white sand bunkers that challenge golfers on both tracks. Whitefish Lake is also host to the popular and highly competitive Earl Hunt Memorial Fourth of July tournament, this year scheduled for July 5-8.

The Wilderness Club

1885 Sophie Lake Road, Eureka | 18 holes | (406) 889-6501 | www.thewildernessclub.com

There are no 18 holes in Northwest Montana quite like The Wilderness Club, which sits on a sprawling, peaceful resort that includes a newly expanded equestrian center. The golf, meanwhile, is as good as it gets. Laid out by legendary golfer Nick Faldo along with renowned course designers Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley, The Wilderness Club was named Montana’s best course by Golfweek Magazine and is a true test from the tips, checking in at more than 7,200 yards.

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